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Menards eyes Austin, Minn., site

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Eau Claire, Wis.-based Menards has proposed a new store in Austin, Minn., a south central Minnesota city close to the Iowa border, according to a report in the Austin Post-Bulletin.

The retailer has proposed a 162,000-square-foot store on a 78-acre site, which includes space for other commercial developments and multi-family homes, according to the report.

It’s unclear when construction could begin on the project, from summer 2008 to spring 2009.

The site is near a Target store, and a nearby site includes a Wal-Mart Supercenter currently under construction. The Menards store is expected to employ 150 to 200 people.

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Whirlpool up in the fourth quarter

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Still seeing the benefits of its 2006 acquisition of Maytag, Whirlpool reported higher fourth-quarter earnings of $187 million, up 71.6 percent from $109 million last year. Sales for the quarter were $5.33 billion, up 7.7 percent from $4.95 billion last year.

For the full year, net earnings rose 47.8 percent to $640 million from $433 million in the previous year. Sales for 2007 were $19.4 billion, up 7.2 percent from $18.1 billion last year.

Whirlpool announced intentions last week to close plants in Tennessee and Mexico, affecting about 1,250 workers. The company said it would eliminate 500 jobs from a plant in La Vergne, Tenn., and a further 750 jobs at a plant in Reynosa, Mexico. Production of built-in refrigerators made in Tennessee will move to the company’s Fort Smith, Ark., plant, which plans to add about 275 jobs by December, the company said.

Jeff Fettig, chairman and CEO of Whirlpool, credited international strength for offsetting a weaker domestic climate.

“Our performance in this environment highlights the strength of our global brands and the geographic diversity of our global operating platform,” Fettig said.

Whirlpool’s North American sales fell by just under 1 percent to $3 billion, while sales in its Latin American segment grew 30 percent to $1 billion. European segment sales rose 12 percent to $1.1 billion, and Whirlpool Asia sales grew 26 percent to $155 million.

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ProBuild completes purchase of HD Supply lumberyards

BY HBSDEALER Staff

ProBuild Holdings has announced the completion of its purchase of HD Supply’s LBM assets, a collection of 39 lumberyards, seven truss plants, 10 engineered wood production facilities and a construction services division, all located in Florida and Georgia.

Terms of the sale, first reported by Home Channel News late in November, were not disclosed. The purchase follows other acquisitions in the Florida and Georgia markets by the Denver-base ProBuild, now the nation’s largest distributor of building materials to professional customers. In a prepared statement, CEO Paul Hylbert said the company will continue to pursue an aggressive strategy in the Southeast, which he described as a “long-term, high-growth housing market.” ProBuild now operates more than 520 locations in 40 states.

The remainder of HD Supply is still owned by three private equity groups, who bought the entire division from Home Depot on Aug. 23 for $8.5 billion. The LBM side of the business, now spun off to ProBuild, was built upon three major acquisitions: Williams Bros. Lumber outside Atlanta; Cox Lumber in St. Petersburg, Fla.; and Forest Products Building Materials in Sarasota, Fla.

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